|Profile: Sir Durward Knowles|
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: May 21, 2012
The legacy of Sir Durward Randolph Knowles will be written in the sea, with a sail raised to the sky and driven by the stars.
It’s a legacy many Bahamians have followed, not only in sailing, but tolerance, faith, patriotism and stewardship.
At 94, Sir Durward’s sharp wit has kept him active, even if it’s no longer in sailing.
The legend, praised by many of his fellow sailors, Bahamians and even Queen Elizabeth II, credits his father for much of his success in life.
“He was a great sailor and pilot and I followed right behind him and did everything better,” said Sir Durward.
“I think I was a natural. As I say I sailed by the seat of my pants. I didn’t go to college, but I raced against all the college boys.”
It was 48 years ago that Sir Durward put The Bahamas and Bahamian athletes on the map, when he won The Bahamas’ first gold medal at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
It was also the same year that his father died.
“My father taught me so much about how to watch the winds and tides,” Sir Durward said. “We had great competition in Montagu Bay and that’s where I got good. I raced against the competitors that we had here.”
Sir Durward started sailing around 1936 and pointed out that there is more to sailing than one may think.
“In sailing you have to be lucky,” he said.
“The wind has to shift in your direction and you have to figure out which direction it will shift and go there. So it’s not just sitting down sailing in a boat. You’ve got to be tactical. Tactics is very important.”
He pointed to an incident in the Olympics when he raced against Sweden and the United States.
“We were very close with only two seconds separating us,” he said.
“The U.S. decided to cover – to go behind – Sweden.
That gave me an opportunity to break away from them and I went the other way, got a lift [from the wind] and came back and finished first. I mean…it’s amazing, man.”
He noted, “Sailing started the ball rolling for all the other athletes.”
Sir Durward, sometimes known as the ‘Sea Wolf’, said tolerance among Bahamians is important and is something he will be involved in until he dies.
On Election Day, many observed when Obie Pindling, son of the late Sir Lynden Pindling, helped Sir Durward to the polling station.
It was all planned he said.
“I said to Obie, I want you to lead me to the polls,” said Sir Durward.
“I said I want you to do it for a reason. We have to show the public that we can live together — PLP or FNM, we have to live together.
“He (Obie) jumped at it. He said, ‘Man, that’s a wonderful idea and I’ll go along with you 100 percent.’ He really enjoyed it.”
Sir Durward said afterwards they were inundated with cameras and reporters that wanted an interview.
“We just wanted to show the public, right there in front of everybody on Election Day, PLP and FNM, that we are all one.”
He continued, “I think I’ll pass this world still believing in one Bahamas… Let’s do what we can for the country.”
Another important point the sailing champion offered was that he could never win the many events he did, if it were not for his crew.
“Some [people] thought that I was getting too much praise for winning these things because I had crews with me,” he said.
“But certainly I praised my crew up every opportunity I get. Reporters all over the world don’t go to the crew to get the interview; they come right to the skippers. So naturally I have to talk, but everybody knows you can’t win a race without a crew.
“I can’t win without them.”
In his office off Bay Street, Sir Durward is trying to re-launch the One Bahamas initiative.
He didn’t provide details into the program, but said it is about bringing Bahamians together, to help one another.
In 2010, Sir Durward was to sail in one final race at a regatta.
“Everything was arranged; they had a boat set up for me and I wanted to make one last race,” he said.
“[But] on my way home from dropping a friend to the airport, I ran head on into a car.”
That brought his sailing days to an abrupt end, though he said he has no regrets.
“I’ve had a wonderful life,” he said. “I feel that I contributed a lot to the community.”